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   Chapter 12 FRONTIER FEARS AND PANICS

The Wonderful Story of Washington By Charles M. Stevens Characters: 3900

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:04


There was an abundance of responsibility at once for Washington in his new official position. All the frontiers were being attacked by Indians urged on by the French. Washington tried to get his troops together to meet the Indians at the outposts, but he was unable at the main post to muster more than twenty-five of the militia. The others declared that if they had to die they preferred to die with their women and children.

In his first report to the Governor, he wrote, "No orders are obeyed, but such as a party of soldiers or my own drawn sword enforces. Without this, not a single horse, for the most earnest occasion, can be had,-to such a pitch has the insolence of these people arrived, by having every point hitherto submitted to them. However, I have given up none, where His Majesty's service requires the contrary, and where my proceedings are justified by my instructions; nor will I, unless they execute what they threaten,-that is, to blow out our brains."

This was naturally at the period of Washington's greatest loyalty to his Sovereign, and also shows that some of Braddock's notions of military authority still lingered with him. Perhaps it is better to say that he recognized the military necessity for obedient discipline in a common purpose and result, or there could be no successful army.

We may easily guess that the insolence to which he refers was the frontiersman's disrespect for military authority and his growing belief in his own right to choose the manner of his service or his death. These men had been as badly treated by the Braddock style of authority as Washington had been, and most of his troubles doubtless arose from their memory of insolence in the officers.

As an example of the panic and confusion of the times, while Washington was at Winchester endeavoring to get his troops organized, a man came running into town, one Sunday afternoon, saying in breathless terror that a horde of India

ns was only twelve miles off, killing and burning everything they came to. Washington remained up all night preparing for the attack. At about dawn on Monday morning, another man arrived, declaring that a host of Indians was now within four miles of the town. He had himself heard the guns of the Indians and the shrieks of the victims. The scouts sent out by Washington had not yet returned, and the terror-stricken people at once guessed that they had been ambushed and killed.

All that Washington could get together equipped to meet the Indian drive was only forty men. At the head of these he rode forth to the scene of massacre and carnage. All that they ever found was three drunken troopers who had been yelling in their carousal on the way to town and firing off their pistols.

Washington arrested them and brought them in as trophies of the Indian war.

"These circumstances," Washington wrote in his report, "show what a panic prevails among the people; how much they are all alarmed at the most usual customary crimes; and yet how impossible it is to get them to act in any respect for their common safety."

A Captain arriving at that time with recruits from Alexandria, reported that, in coming across the Blue Ridge, he had met a crowd of people hastening away in terror, whom he could not stop. They all told him that the Indians had overwhelmed the country and that Winchester had been sacked and burned.

Washington saw that nothing but confusion and cross purposes could prevail under the conditions as they then existed. Accordingly, he set about to reform the methods and the laws. Under his management, order at last came out of chaos. He also learned the uses of military show to give confidence and he ordered rather gorgeous uniforms to be sent him from England. This was probably necessary in order also to retain the respect of the young English officers for whom it was often true that the clothes made the man.

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